SAN FRANCISCO – With Europe's Ryder Cup celebrations still in full swing and Americans dissecting a devastating defeat, the US PGA Tour officially launches its 2018-19 season Thursday at the Safeway Open in Napa, California.
The world's best - including most who dueled in Europe's 17.5-10.5 triumph over the United States in the Ryder Cup in France last week - are still taking time off after the rigors of the US tour's FedEx Cup playoffs in August and September.
Phil Mickelson is the only Ryder Cup player to make the trip to California, and Patrick Cantlay joins Mickelson as the only players who were in the Tour Championship field to tee it up this week.
Mickelson will be hoping a return to his home state signals a turnaround after a 0-2 performance at the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson will play on Thursday and Friday alongside two-time defending champion Brendan Steele and 2014 champion Bae Sang-moon of South Korea.
Steele is seeking to become the first player to win the same US PGA Tour event three years in a row since Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic from 2009-2011.
“Obviously very comfortable getting back here,” Steele told reporters at Silverado Resport and Spa. “(I've) seen this place in a lot of different conditions and it just seems to fit my eye no matter what's going on and where my game is coming into the week.
“It always brings out the best in me for some reason, so it's nice to be back.”
Steele is coming off a three-week break, having failed to make it to the Tour Championship.
After his promising start to last season he finished on a down note, missing four cuts in his last five starts.
“I do love the fresh start here, being back to zero,” he said. “Whether you've had a good year or a bad year, there's something really exciting about everybody starting from scratch again.”
The string of events before the game's biggest names launch their seasons - many at the Tournament of Champions in January - opens the door for a bevy of Web.com Tour graduates eager to cement their status on the main tour.
Long-hitting Cameron Champ, 23, is among 21 US PGA Tour rookies this season, all of whom will be in action this week.
“I'm just going to try to go about it the same as I did last year,” said Champ, who impressed as an amateur at the 2017 US Open. “(I'll) just kind of figure out what kind of works best for me out here and the courses and whatnot, and then at the end of the day just play my own game.”
Also among the rookies aiming to get out of the blocks quickly are 2018 Web.com Tour money list leader Im Sun-jae of South Korea and Aussie Cameron Davis, winner of the 2017 Australian Open.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)